Major General Fil describes the plan:
This new plan involves three basic parts: clear, control and retain. The first objective within each of the security districts in the Iraqi capital is to clear out extremist elements neighborhood by neighborhood in an effort to protect the population. And after an area is cleared, we're moving to what we call the control operation.
Together with our Iraqi counterparts, we'll maintain a full-time presence on the streets, and we'll do this by building and maintaining joint security stations throughout the city. This effort to re- establish the joint security stations is well under way. The number of stations in each district will be determined by the commanders on the ground who control that area.
An area moves into the retain phase when the Iraqi security forces are fully responsible for the day-to-day security mission. At this point, coalition forces begin to move out of the neighborhood and into locations where they can respond to requests for assistance as needed.
During these three phrases, efforts will be ongoing to stimulate local economies by creating employment opportunities, initiating reconstruction projects and improving the infrastructure. These efforts will be spearheaded by neighborhood advisory councils, district advisory councils and the government of Iraq.
We'll know when we're succeeding when the levels of violence are reduced. Some areas of the city will see rapid improvement, while others will take some time to make the same levels of progress. We are here for the duration.
The Iraqi people have not given up their hope for a prosperous and peaceful Iraq, and we should not give up on them. We're working literally day and night with the Baghdad Operational Command to help bring down the levels of violence, and the government of Iraq continues to move forces into Baghdad as we bring in more U.S. forces. It's an extremely complex and difficult mission, but together we are up to the task.
It's important to remember that all of this will take time, and the mission is going to be tough. It will take time for additional forces to flow in; it'll take time for these forces to gain an understanding of their areas and to establish relationships with the local Iraqi leaders and the citizens. It will also take time to conduct the clearing operations and then to build on our achievements.
All this makes sense. This is an appropriate approach to defeating our enemies inside Iraq.
But the metric is troubling. Are we really saying that we will define whether our surge is successful based on the number of attacks over the next six months?
This is what I'm worrying about. Certainly, victory in the end will be signalled by the great reduction of enemy violence. Eventually. But in the near term, this is problematic. An enemy determined to fight can pull off spectacular kills even with our troops all over the place. Terrorists need only the will to kill and nearby civilians grouped together.
And if there is little violence, it could mean the enemy is waiting until we leave as much as it means we have won. This metric of levels of violence assumes near-term success can be achieved when a counter-insurgency against a well-financed and fanatical enemy could go on a decade more.
I would rather have a metric of success that judges whether we have prepared Iraqis to fight this decade-long fight. If we have done that, even if the violence in Baghdad is roughly the same, we can call it a victory. But if we truly are judging the surge based on ending violence, unless the enemy suddenly breaks, I fear we are setting ourselves up for a paper defeat. Which in our political environment will quickly be translated into actual defeat.
We need a surge of patience in Iraq more than anything else. The plan we have is reasonable. The hopes we have for it may be dangerously unreasonable.